Blog Post

Viacom: Easy Tiger, We Don’t Want Your Data

Viacom doesn’t want to know what you watch on YouTube, so you can all relax. At least, that’s what an representative from the company told me Friday. The blog-o-sphere (us included) erupted over the past week after a judge ordered YouTube to hand over its user data to Viacom as part of its ongoing $1 billion copyright lawsuit. But Viacom says you have nothing to worry about… really.

From its perspective, Viacom says that it asked for as much data as it did because uniqueness is important to establishing the level of infringement. Evidently when it comes to copyright law, one person watching an illicit video twenty times is not as bad as twenty different people watching the same illicit video one time.

Any data Viacom receives will be classified as highly confidential, meaning that it cannot use this data for anything outside the scope of this case. According to the Viacom rep, the company is legally prohibited from trolling for potential future lawsuits against individual users.

Additionally, any YouTube data would be handed over to Viacom’s outside counsel and experts and Viacom employees could not touch it. That provided little comfort considering that the outside counsel is being paid by Viacom, but I was told that if someone breached this, they would be in contempt of court, which could mean jail time.

Finally, this may all be moot anyway as Google and Viacom are working on a system that would mask anything that might smack of identifiability. IP address numbers may be switched or altered on Google’s end so that it would be impossible for Viacom to track someone down.

12 Responses to “Viacom: Easy Tiger, We Don’t Want Your Data”

  1. It’s not practical or worthwhile for Viacom to go after individual users. Of course, that doesn’t mean it won’t happen – but it makes it a lot less likely, IMHO. I’m not losing any sleep.

  2. Helder

    “Viacom doesn’t want to know what you watch on YouTube, so you can all relax. At least, that’s what an representative from the company told me Friday.”

    That could be what they told YOU, not the JUDGE.

  3. Justin

    Viacom is full of …. they want more money for their pockets. They could care less about YouTube. As long as they get money, they could play with us like marionettes.

  4. A Computer Expert

    I am a computer expert and I can tell you this. Even if they remove all the IP/username infos, it’s still easy to find who watched what.

    This is how to do it :

    Everybody watch their own videos from time to time and most people have a lot of non-popular videos.

    You go on Youtube and scan the whole site to get the usernames and what videos they posted. Save that list in a BD.

    You take, let’s say a single user from that BD and match all the videos from the Viacom/Google BD. You then take a look at the whole collection that have been watched by only a unique “anonymous” ID. If no one else watched the whole collection, you already have a really high probability match. If someone else did, you look at who watched it the most since most people are the own who watch the most their own videos.

    That’s just one way to do it.

    I don’t need to tell you that with IP/username, it just make things easier.

    I’m 100% certain that Google are about to appeal this case since it’s impossible to anonymize the logs, and believe me, they know it.